If you’ve spent anytime in the “homemaker” section of the blogosphere, then meal planning won’t be a new concept to you.

My earliest memory of meal planning was soon after Hubbs and I were married – November 2004. Being that I wasn’t very proficient at cooking and we were no longer satisfied with eating such delicacies as hot dogs, mac and cheese, and pizza, it quickly became necessary to devise a plan to eat better and not spend a wad of cash every week by eating out.

Thus, my original meal planning effort was born. I started with doing a weekly meal plan. We both worked outside the home at the time, lived in Nevada, had an extremely reasonable mortgage and had no consumer debt. I mention living in Nevada because food prices were, and still are, quite reasonable there. Life was good!

I shopped freely, meaning I never looked at sales and never looked at prices. We ate meat with nearly every meal and I’m not talking ground beef every single night. Tri tip, steaks, fish of various kinds, you name it. Plus, since I was a newbie to the cooking world, I was trying my hands at all kinds of new dishes. Life was fun!

The only thing I hated about meal planning was the PLANNING. I distinctly remember lugging out my various cookbooks to the living room, planting myself in front of the TV and groaning about having to come up with what in the world we were going to eat every night. I didn’t mind the shopping, I most certainly didn’t mind the cooking, but I just loathed having to do the arduous task of planning every week.

It took awhile for me to come up with the 2-week meal plan, but eventually that’s where my planning progressed. Then my planning changed yet again by coming up with at least 2 meals a week that we could “stretch” into 2 days. Yup – leftovers. Thankfully Hubbs isn’t opposed to them, but I know many a man who is!!

That was a little over 5 year ago.

Today, it’s not just the 2 of us, it’s the 4 of us. We live in California, a.k.a. the “cha ching!!!!” state. Only 1 of us works outside the home and I haven’t figured out a way to make money on the extra 45 minutes of uninterrupted time I have in a day. I look at prices much more closely and while I admire the woman who has conquered the coupon world, I am not one of those. We have a mortgage that isn’t necessarily “terrible” but it’s certainly not as reasonable as our first home. And thankfully, we still have ZERO consumer debt. Including our cars. We are fully paid up and intend to do our best to live this way as long as possible.

Because I still loathe to meal plan, my planning has transitioned yet again, only this time I am able to crank out a MONTHLY meal plan. And I continue to be amazed at how quickly an entire month goes by!! I still attempt at least 2 meals a week that can stretch but I’m finding that the extra little mouths at our table aren’t allowing a huge amount of leftovers these days, so I may need to come up with a different plan – again!

I’ve seen all kinds of different meal plans, like picking a food “theme” for each day of the week – Monday Chicken, Tuesday Pizza, Wednesday Breakfasts, etc.  Other meal plans may only include weekday meals, leaving weekends to be used for leftovers, freezer meals, or going out. Really, it’s all a matter of what works for you and your family. We typically have pancakes and bacon on Wednesdays but that’s about it for organization, and I plan a meal for every single night of the week since we almost never eat out unless we are traveling.

Never have I ever stuck 100% to any particular meal plan, because life happens. But at the same time, I am almost never frustrated when it comes to dinnertime in our household. Even if dinner doesn’t “match” that evening’s choice on the meal plan, it matches somewhere else on the calendar. I didn’t have to just pull a meal out of thin air.

If you are married, children or not, I highly recommend trying your hand at meal planning. If it seems taxing, difficult, boring, whatever, then ease into it. Plan 2 meals a week. See how you like it. Or try “Monday Chicken” all month and see if that doesn’t spark your interest to have something like that to look forward to. If you have a spouse or children, get their input. I’m sure there are things they’d love to see on the table that you’ve never thought of, or better yet, things they’d never like to see on the dinner table again!

For more ideas on meal planning, head on over to these blogs:

Life As Mom
I’m An Organizing Junkie
Meal Planning 101
This Week For Dinner

So, with all that said in mind, I present to you our families’ meal plan for the month of March. All items with a * are new meals I’m trying out. Bon Apetit!

1. Tacos
2. BBQ Chicken Pizza
3. Soup and Sandwiches
Days 4 – 7 we’re out of town
8. Chicken Pot Pie
9. Grilled Salmon w/Squash & Red Potatoes
10. Pancakes & Bacon
11. * Zippy Pork Chili w/Bread
13. Pork Chops w/Rice Pilaf (seriously, the BEST rice pilaf ever!)
15. Lasagna w/green salad & garlic bread
17. Pancakes & Bacon
18. * Mexican Pizza
19. Baked Teriyaki Chicken w/Red Potatoes & Broiled Asparagus (one of my fave dinners)
20. Pizza out with guests staying with us
21. * Mongolian Beef w/Lettuce Wraps
22. Corned Beef & Cabbage w/Irish Soda Bread
23. Eat out w/guests
24. Pancakes & Bacon
25. Shrimp Stir-Fry w/noodles
26. Grilled Burgers w/Fries & Melon
27. Italian Sausage Soup w/Bread
29. * Chicken Chili w/Cornbread
31. Pancakes & Bacon